Galatasaray publicly backs player Taylan Antalyalı following abuse for wearing Pride t-shirt

One of Turkey’s biggest sports clubs has rallied around its player Taylan Antalyalı after he was subjected to a barrage of homophobic abuse for posting a photo of himself wearing a T-shirt supporting LGBTI+ Pride Month at the weekend.

Galatasaray Football Club said they are “proud” of their player and that they “condemn in the strongest terms possible the abuse” levelled at Taylan Antalyalı.

Referencing the club’s core values in taking a stand “against discrimination”, the Galatasaray board said they stand by Antalyalı “without hesitation” and were ready to take legal action if the player wanted.

Antalyalı has posted a photograph of himself and a friend on Instagram on Sunday, 27 June, both wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Antalyalı’s shirt bore the message ‘POWERED BY PRIDE’, written in rainbow colours to reflect the international rainbow flag of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

While many praised the post, which was made during the annual globally celebrated Pride Month, there were also hundreds who criticised it, many resorting to vile homophobic slurs and abuse.

The issue quickly trended in Turkey, and drew in a wide range of personalities, some siding with the detractors, while others opposed them and publicly backed Antalyalı’s right to wear the t-shirt and stand against homophobia.

Remzi Sanver, the spokesperson for Galatasaray FC’s Board of Directors, makes a statement on GS TV

Sports presenters Turgay Demir and Emre Bol used their programme VAR Odası (VAR Room) on TV100 to criticise Antalyalı and called for the midfielder to be permanently dropped from the Turkish national team for supporting PRIDE.

The pair were rebuked by fellow commentator Bışar Özbey, who came to the defence on the Cimbom midfielder on the same programme. A sports lawyer by profession and a regular commentator on TV100, Özbey said that Antalyalı’s T-shirt should not generate such a response and highlighted the dangers of censoring views:

“If we’re going to suppress people’s opinions down to a t-shirt, we can’t talk about freedom of thought or anything else,” said Özbey.

Antalyalı has since deleted his Instagram post, but others have continued to rally to his defence and praise him for his progressive stance in showing solidarity with the LGBTI+ community.

One of those was GS TV (Galatasaray Television) presenter Serbay Şenkal, who said: “As a Galatasaray fan, I am proud of him for his courage,” and added, “I congratulate my brother Taylan Antalyalı for not marginalising people, not polarising them, not engaging in racism, fascism or partisanship.”

Beşiktaş striker Umut Nayir also extended his support by tweeting the picture of Taylan Antalyalı in his PRIDE t-shirt, with the message: “I hadn’t been called up to the national team anyway,” adding the relief, heart and rainbow emojis to his post.

Galatasaray FC has also been forthcoming with its support for Antalyalı, including tweeting a photo of the player holding the club logo on his Galatasaray shirt early on Tuesday, with the message“Good morning Great #Galatasaray Family”.

Also on Tuesday, Galatasaray spokesperson Remzi Sanver appeared on GS TV following a meeting of the club’s board of directors and made a strong statement on the issue.

“As the public knows very well, a very unfortunate, sad and meaningless development has been reflected in the last two days. Unfortunate, sad and meaningless, yet it was a very important development for us” started Sanver before continuing with comments about the club’s values.

“Galatasaray Sports Club takes its values ​​from Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultani [High School], which is a tradition of enlightenment in Turkey. Among these values ​​is freedom of expression, that no one should be discriminated against because of their identity, and the awareness that one need not have that identity in order to stand by those who are discriminated against because of their identity.

“For example, we defend women’s rights not because we are women or have daughters, but because we are human. Galatasaray’s values ​​include glorifying people simply because they are human.

“With such a perspective, we strongly condemn the criticisms that exceeded the permitted levels of democratic criticism of our esteemed athlete, Mr. Taylan Antalyalı, due to a message he posted on social media, and that we, as the Galatasaray Sports Club Board of Directors, stand by him without hesitation in this event and, if he wishes, to pursue legal action. We express our readiness to provide all kinds of support.

“We have no doubt that all sports clubs and administrations who believe they are cut from the same social development and enlightenment cloth as us will share our point of view, and we would like to say that we will find if they can show support in their own way of our stance this would be very valuable in terms of demonstrating that while we may be rivals in sports, we are partners in values.”

Mr Sanver concluded by stating, “Our dear Taylan brother. As Galatasaray Board of Directors, we are proud you are a member of our club, and as a son of the great Galatasaray family, we embrace you and greet you with love.”